In the Mahabharata, Yudhishtira was asked by the Yaksha of the lake what the greatest wonder in the world was. Yudhishtira replies promptly: “Day after day countless creatures are going to the abode of Yama, yet those that remain behind live their lives as though they’ll live forever. What can be more wondrous than this?”
I was in a similar state, until last Tuesday when my father passed away after a hard-fought battle with pneumonia.
Nothing is more final than death. Nothing is more gut-wrenching than doctors and nurses referring to your loved one as “the body”. Nothing is more shocking than seeing the body of your loved ones burn and their bones get handed down to you in a pot.
Over the past year and a half, my father was diagnosed with multiple health problems. He had a blocked Right Coronary Artery, his kidneys were failing, and in April last year, he had a fall that led to a hemorrhage in his brain. Still, he and his doctors fought hard, which led to a partial recovery from all the ailments, sufficient enough for him to lead a near-normal life. However, from January this year, he was forced onto dialysis, and his health kept deteriorating until the final blow came in the form of pneumonia that proved to be untreatable.
I miss him.
While my dad had many accomplishments to his credit, the one that mattered to me the most was that he was an intense dad. The intensity with which he approached his role as a father (or grandfather) had to be seen to be believed. Be it carrying a sick 8 year old (me) for over six kilometers to get treatment, or waiting hours in front of my school to pick me up after my exams, or waiting in queues so that I didn’t have to - my dad always put my needs, desires, and even wishes before himself. He was always there for me and my brother – even for my nephews, when we needed him. He set the dad bar very high for my family.
Today, I feel orphaned – even though it was I (and my brother/wife/sister-in-law and mother) who was taking care of him! I realize now how many things my father had insulated us from; how many responsibilities, duties and dirty tasks he had taken on his shoulders so that we wouldn’t feel the burden. Suddenly, I feel like a teenager who woke up one morning to find himself a middle-aged man.
However, life must go on, lessons must be learnt, and we must look ahead. Therefore, let me conclude with some bit of advice from this experience:
* Get regular medical checkups: True, it is a hassle, it takes at least 1/2 a day, and it is tremendously annoying. But it detects many potentially deadly disorders in advance. So, if you are over 30, get a checkup done at least once in two years. If you are over 40, get a checkup done at least once a year. We came to know about my dad’s kidney failure only when it was too late to remedy it.
* Get health insurance: While it was heart rending to see my father take ill and be in pain, we were spared financial pain, thanks to a superb health insurance policy offered by Microsoft and my dad’s CGHS facility. If your company offers health insurance, ensure that you have at least a 5 lakh cover, and that your parents, spouse and kids are covered.
* Don’t take antibiotics at random: One of the most difficult aspects of my dad’s illness was seeing that a curable disease like pneumonia became incurable because of resistance to antibiotics. Apparently, this is because of indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the general population, both with and without doctor prescriptions, leading to the evolution of more and more resistant strains of bacteria and virii.
* Do talk to the people you love regularly: My father was in the ICU for nearly 4 weeks, during which he couldn’t utter a word. Day after day, we would go in only to see him either unconscious or unable to speak. He probably wanted to tell us something, but couldn’t. Neither could we convey to him any words of strength. Do not postpone words of love, encouragement or strength.
If there is a soul, I hope his finds peace. If not, there are our memories where he’ll be cherished as long as we live. Thanks dad, for all you did for me. And If I ever have kids of my own, I hope I can be half as good a dad to them as you were to me.